News You Really Need To See: “New Courts Offer Pakistan’s Generals the Power They Used to Seize”

“New Courts Offer Pakistan’s Generals the Power They Used to Seize”

The New York Times, January 11, 2015, p.A10

“After a tumultuous year, Mr. Sharif’s government may still be hanging on, extending a nearly seven-year stretch of civilian rule.  But otherwise, Pakistan’s generals are back in the driver’s seat.  Under General Sharif, who took his post in late 2013 and is not related to the prime minister, the army has transformed its fortunes: triumphing over the government in a series of bruising public clashes, bringing unruly critics in the news media to heel, and winning broad support for a drive against Islamist militants in their tribal stronghold.  Now, the military has claimed a victory that may turn out to be the most significant of all, allowing the generals deep inroads into an institution that has hounded them in recent years: Pakistan’s judiciary.  A constitutional amendment passed by Parliament on Tuesday empowered military courts to try suspected Islamist militants, opening the way for a rapid but rough-hewed judicial process that could move defendants from arrest to execution in a matter of weeks.  The military, responding to public anger over the Peshawar killings, is moving fast: On Friday, it announced the establishment of nine new courts, with a promise that they would start work soon. … But this time, Pakistan’s generals have not grabbed power from the politicians.  It was practically handed to them.  Save for a handful of religious parties, much of the political system supports the military courts — even the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party, which has long presented itself as a bulwark against an overbearing military.  Many party stalwarts looked anguished as they voted against their consciences to support the military courts on Tuesday; some wept openly.  ‘A little bit of me died today,’ said Aitzaz Ahsan, the party’s leader in the Senate.  Yet the vote went ahead — a powerful indictment, critics said, of a political class that seemed to be admitting not only that the country’s judicial system was broken, but also that it was incapable of fixing it.”

Quickie Analysis: And the pendulum swings from the corrupt, ineffective civilian government back to the corrupt, ineffective military. 

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